everything i read in january (17 books)
This was a month of good reading for me. Actually, every month is. I'm stringent about choosing books (in particular if I buy it) and rarely make a poor choice. I won't finish a crappy book, but it's unusual for me to even start one.
So, here is everything I read this month. I'm focusing on philosophy at the moment, as might be obvious. Also, the older the book, the more I tend to enjoy it.
Small is the New Big- Seth Godin. Everything Seth Godin writes is pure genius. Having 183 of his blog posts in print form is indescribably lovely. There is something nice about turning the digital physical, the impermanent permanent. It's focused on small businesses and standing out in the current world where niches are everything. I recommend it no matter what industry you are in, or even for students.
Deep Work - Cal Newport. Reread. This book transformed the way I work. I take care to reread it on a regular basis to ensure I am following the protocols and rules laid out in it. I cannot imagine anyone who would not benefit from this book- read it and actually pay attention. This is the book which prompted me to quit social media and start training myself to do better work.
The Road - Cormac McCarthy. Disconcerting, uncomfortable and somehow important. This is a story of a father and son surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. McCarthy is somewhat vague about the situation, though this is clearly intentional. It lays bare the grim reality of how screwed humans would be if civilisation collapses.
A Month of Sundays - John Updike. Very, very unique. It's oddly indulgent and has Nabokov-esque undertones. A priest has an affair, then another, then a few more, gets caught and is sent on a corrective holiday. This book is sensual in a poetic way and the language is exquisite. The sense of someone trying to reconcile their beliefs and behaviour is powerful.
Portrait of a Man - George Perec. This was Perec's first novel, yet it was the last published. The original manuscript was found a few years ago and translated into English. I love how it flits between 1st, 2nd and 3rd person in a manner which keeps you on your toes throughout the book. It's about an art forger who kills his (sort of) manager and then has an existential crisis. Very little happens, it's mostly about his thoughts. Perec is perhaps one of the most creative writers imaginable.
Exercises in Style - Raymond Queneau. This is a rather batty book. Queneau takes a single scenario and tells it in 99 different styles. The actual scenario is a simple one - an argument and conversation overheard on a bus and in a street. Most are almost unreadable or sort of boring. It shifts from being torturous to hilarious. Read this if you think language is not something fun to play with.
Walden - Henry Thoreau. Reread. My copy recently fell apart from being carried about and referred to several times a day. It's hard to explain how much I love this book, or how much it has altered my perspective. Read it and you'll understand why.
Waking Up - Sam Harris. Spirituality without religion. Useful to read whilst building a meditation habit. I went over the first chapter at least 4 times to absorb it.
Protagoras - Plato. A dialogue between Socrates and Protagoras, recorded by Plato. I'm a sucker for intense analyses of concepts which seem simple, so I love their discussion of what being good means. The full text is available for free here. However, that translation isn't the best so I recommend the Penguin version. It's more accessible than one might expect and very thought provoking.
Meno - Plato. Also a Socratic dialogue, this time with Meno. The topic is similar to Protagoras. There is a brilliant part where Socrates uses diagrams to explain how learning works. I'm not sure why Greek philosophers have a reputation as difficult to read. Find the right translation and much of their work remains topical.
The Art of War - Sun Tzu. 2500-year-old Chinese military treatise which manages to be applicable to much more than war. It's as much a guide to living as it is to combat. A line I adore: “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” Also: “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” As I always say, a book has to be damn good to remain in print for thousands of years. This is no exception.
The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg. Reread. This is one of the books which changed my life.
Animal Farm - George Orwell. Reread. This is my tenth (or so) reading and I still feel like crying when Boxer dies. I first read it as a child and obviously missed the political undertones.
Letters from a Stoic - Seneca. Where does one even begin with this book? I'll get back to you once I have reread it a dozen more times.
Practical Ethics - Peter Singer. Extremely dense, almost a textbook and rather enlightening. Singer examines and appears to resolve many of our biggest ethical dilemmas. It's basically a book to read if you want to be a decent human and understand the viewpoints of others.
4 Hour Work Week - Tim Ferriss. So much has been said about this that I can't add much. Needless to say, it's a paradigm changing book. I have read through it once and am now working on using the advice. I have a feeling it's going to change my life in the long term.
4 Hour Body - Tim Ferriss. Also pure brilliance. I'm trialling the main ideas from it at the moment, so we shall see if it's effective for me. As with everything Ferriss writes, the value is in the implementation and not the reading. I sort of have to agree with Chapman that Ferriss' books have the ugliest covers ever seen.
Let me know in the comments what you read this month and what you recommend for February!